Mt. Everest 2005 Season Coverage
Himalaya - Nepal
29,035 feet 8,850 m
|I summited Everest on May 21, 2011 and have climbed it three other times (all from Nepal) - 2002, 2003 and 2008 each time reaching just below the Balcony at about 27,500' (8400 meters) before health, weather or my own judgment caused me to turn back. I attempted Lhotse twice - 2015 and 2016. When not climbing, I cover the Everest season from my home in Colorado as I did for the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 , 2017, 2018 and now the 2019 season.|
South Col Route
See more on the south route description
North Ridge Route
See more on the north route description
|Teams with Blogs||BC||C1||C2||C3||C4||SUMMIT||Teams with Blogs||ABC||C1||C2||C3||SUMMIT|
|* Adventure Consultants||e||h||* Himalayan Experience||e||c||15/14|
|* Alpine Ascents International||e||5/6||* Jagged Globe - North||e||c||4/3|
|* International Mountain Guides||e||4/5||* Summit Climb - North||e||2/6|
|* Jagged Globe - South||e||4/3||* Norwegian Women||e||h|
|* Gavin Bate (audio)||e||h+||* Adventures to the Edge||e||3|
|* Summit Climb - South||e||2/6||* Team Ogawa-Boealps||e||1/4|
|* Gabriel Filippi||e||1||* Alexander Abramov||e||11/12|
|* Climbing for a Cure||e||1/2||* Norwegian Men||e||5/5|
|* O'Brien Brothers||e||h||* DCXP Duncan Chessell||e||1/2|
|* Mountain Madness||e||5/9||* Project Himalaya||e||2/2|
|* Kanatek Canada||e||h||* Big Green Everest||e||2/2|
|* Team Honda||e||h||2/2||others (Chinese, India, Iran)||49/40|
|* Algonquin - Shaunna||e||1|
|* Keith Woodhouse||e||h+|
|* Singapore No O's||e|
|* Singapore NUS||e||3/3|
|others (Iran-12, Korean-8, Mexico-2)||15 /17|
|Total South Summits||45/57||Total North Summits||100/94|
e= climb ended, x=last reported location, x+ = on summit bid, -x = descending h=high point. Summit number = client/sherpa Locations are estimates derived from public websites
Western Cwm & C1
Everest Base Camp
Trekking to BC
|April 30, 2005 - Moving up, Staying put
It is a mixed time on Everest this weekend. Some teams are moving up but most are staying out due to bad weather on both sides. For a nice overview of the North side climb, take a took at Duncan Chessell's (newly added to the list above) dispatches and map using Contact 3.0 communications from Explorer's Web.
Seattle Boealps comments on the weather at ABC on the North "...We are currently a bit on hold in ABC. Camp 4 has not been able to be established because of bad weather. It snowed several inches last night and it feels like Christmas here. Our plan is to go up high in a couple of days (when the weather is better) and then we rest at BC for about 5 days and then we wait for a weather window to attempt the summit." Michael goes on to comment on the cold and their expected summit date: "camping at the North Col (7030m) is quite interesting. It is so cold that all the moisture you exhale in your breath turns to frost and snow in the tent so that by morning it is a pain to move around for lots of snow constantly falling. We hope to be ready for a summit push by the 13th." A nice view of the snow at ABC is on Project Himalaya's site.
It is a different story on the South. Tuck with IMG notes " Namaste! Amazing, no snow today, windy up high, a few clouds around, overall I'd give it a B plus for weather. We've got 25 thoroughbreds in the gate ready to leave camp II and head for the South Col early tomorrow. "
Just to confuse things, Adventure Consultants reports on bad weather hurting their progress on the South "...Our climbing sherpas were one again thwarted in their attempts to reach C4 by strong winds and unpleasant weather. There C4 loads have been temporarily deposited at C3."
Remember that dispatches from Nepal are 12 hours ahead of the North America and 4 hours behind Australia. Since the weather can change so quickly and there are isolated weather events on both sides many expeditions may experience dramatically different conditions on the same day! This is what makes Everest, and all high mountains, so challenging. The weather forecasting has greatly improved over the years thus reducing some of the uncertainty but it is still Mother Nature who calls the shots at the end of the day!
These pictures are of the 2002 American Women's Team climbing up and down the Lhotse Face near C3.
An update from Ed Viesturs on what really happened to Jimmy Chin on Cho Oyu makes interesting reading on the Great Outdoors site.
And finally, there has been an outpouring of sympathy for family and friends of Dr. Sean Eagan who died this week. I know these things happen every day climbing and life but it is always a shock to those closest. Harold Mah has posted a dispatch on his last conversation with Sean. Very moving.
April 29, 2005 - Sad News
Sad news from Everest. Dr. Sean Eagan, the 63 year-old Canadian leading the Kanatek expedition died of a heart attack. He was in the upper Khumbu valley near Periche descending from the upper mountain after not feeling well upon reaching Camp 1. His friends had widely reported on the Kanantek web site that he had been suffering from acid reflux and respiratory problems. He was the only climber from the team attempting the summit. My personal condolences to his friends and fellow climbers. I am sure they are in absolute shock at the moment.
It seems that the weather has turned for the worst on the North with most teams reporting high winds and heavy snow. The Jagged-Globe team notes "...It's still snowing on the north side of Everest today as some members of our team (Neal, Ran, Mark, Alex, Jens and Sibu) have battened down the hatches at Camp 1 on the North Col. They will spend the night there tonight and plan to climb up to between 7,500m and 7,700m tomorrow, as part of their acclimatisation. It's also an important time psychologically, as the climbers scope out the route and get a feel for how the ridge looks - if they can see it! There have been reports today of tents blown off the North Col,"
Michael with Boealps comments on the conditions "I don't think I've ever hiked slower in my life and the wind was constantly blowing quite strong. The Feathered Friends down suit came in quite handy and kept us very warm in what was unfavorable conditions for going high."
Meanwhile on the South, Keith Woodhouse has a great picture of the top ladder on the Icefall. He reports feeling much better and that "Originally I was not convinced about the benefit of going down but now I'm more sure. It will allow me to exercise fairly hard in an environment which will support body building not decline, it will pass time for sure and it will allow the repair of all of those minor ailments like the Khumbu Cough, split fingers ends and chapped lips which simply don't heal at BC altitude." I will make some observations on this time between acclimatization and the summit bid later but I think Keith is very wise with this plan.
Jagged-Globe South has made it C3 and back "The whole team spent last night in Camp 3 and were back in Camp 2 by 11am this morning. They hope to make it all the way back to base camp today by 2-3pm as the forecast is for strong, 50 knot winds and gusting over the next few days. Last night was the coldest night so far in BC. The good news is that they've completed their acclimatisation before this break in the weather, so can now relax and wait for warmer temps and maybe weather window for an early summit bid? The challenge now is to rest and not get too fraught playing the "waiting game" -it's all about patience now... "
Finally if you want to read about true luxury on Mt. Everest, take a look at the IMG updates where they profile their three world-class guides who are leading clients in a 1:1 guide to client.
April 28, 2005 - Camp 3
Camp 3. It does not sound bad. In fact it sounds good, like you are making progress. And you are but not without costs. Camp 3 sits at 23,500', a little above 7000m on the Lhotse Face. You have read all about the Face at this point. How steep it is. How icy and dangerous but where do you pitch a tent?
If you think the Sherpas are amazing, please consider what it take to put C3 in. First, they haul the tents, stoves and fuel up the Face. Once arriving, the literally have to chop the ice away to create somewhat level platforms on which to pitch the tents.
Then, to protect everyone up there, including themselves, they string rope between every tent thus creating streets in this high altitude city. At base camp and C2 there is some separation between camps thus creating a little privacy and sense of team with your own climbers. But at C3, everyone is one team. You are so close you hear everything that goes on in the next tent ... and I mean everything.
Everyone arrives thoroughly exhausted with only one thought on their mind - sleep. They probably have not had a lot to eat or to drink. Thankfully their tent is probably already set up by the Sherpas so they fall in and dig for their -40F sleeping bag. But they really need to get the stove going and start melting swater, brews and food. You are really on your own at C3 and above. The Sherpas can only do so much and now it is time for the climbers to take care of themselves.
For some climbers this is the first time to really use bottled oxygen. It is very common to sleep on O's at C3. Usually a splitter is used to allow two climbers to use the same bottle. The rate is a low 1 liter per hour - just enough to give a little relief. I think it is more mental than physical but at this altitude anything helps!
The mask is a real challenge. It is usually a mask design that Russian MIG pilots had - a hard plastic and cloth shell that covers your face from your nose to your chin. There is bag that hangs under your chin like a chicken neck. You can hear yourself breath for the first time. Like swimming but above water. It is common to wake up from a few minutes sleep with drool wandering back into your throat. Even though the O's feel cool and refreshing, the mask is a nightmare. You lie awake just wondering how long till dawn.
All this said, some experienced climbers are finding C3 quite nice! From the Singapore team "We also found that the years of preparation and the training climbs helped us anticipate the problems and environment of Camp 3. As a result, we found life in Camp 3 relatively comfortable, and coping well with the extreme cold and altitude. For instance, we could eat without throwing up, which was a common problem with climbers."
I would estimate that about half the South side climbers have spent enough time above C2 to consider themselves ready for their summit push. But the large Adventure Consultants and AAI teams are not quite ready. So we may have two big pushes this year. Keith Woodhouse is now estimating a mid May attempt for himself "We are looking at the first reasonable weather window after 10th May which may work out as there is a Singapore team itching at the bit who are planning for an earlier date. That would suit us perfectly."
It is hard to know the status on the North since there are 35 teams many of which are national or military expeditions who are not sending out dispatches. But we know that HimEx is on schedule for a mid May summit as well.
April 27, 2005 - Towards Camp 3
The teams continue to move up both sides of the Hill. There are some excellent dispatches to comment on but one in particular is from Keith Woodhouse...
The Russian team lead by Abramov Alexander comments on the enormous logistics it takes to climb Everest "..Today our Sherpas finished putting up our North Col camp: they put up 6 tents, brought 15 sleeping bags, etc. Tomorrow they are moving to 7700m. And in 2 days more they are going to put up camp at 7700m. Before May 1 we are planning to have 6 tents put up on the North Col, 5 tents at 7700m and some loads will have been brought to the last camp at 8300m."
Jagged-Globe-North said "...made it up to the North Col today, with David, Fred, Tore and Ian. The latter four are going to spend the night up there tonight. Tomorrow, Neal, Sibu, Alex and Jens are going to head back up to the North Col to also spend a night. The weather continues to be pretty settled"
The AC Sherpas are already moving gear to the South Col.
AAI notes on their progress "So far the Sherpa team have moved over 2/3 of our oxygen bottles to CII. Four of our Sherpa "gunners" headed up to CII today as well in order to start in on the fixing up to the South Col tomorrow morning. Unbelievably strong and positive they can't be acknowledged enough for their work."
Dave goes on to speak of their plans for C3 "...then move up to CIII on Saturday for a night of tossing and turning rather than a night of sleep. To be perfectly honest it's one of the more miserable 24 hours of the expedition." I agree with his assessment. More tomorrow on Camp 3 life or lack thereof!
Exlporadus comments on the snow on the Face as they prepare to go to C3 for the first time "We've heard that there are heavy snows expected so if there are avalanche conditions on the face, or if the heavy snows delay camp III being established, then we may spend an extra couple of days at camp II. It's all up in the air ..." I am not sure where they are getting their weather information but is seems different from the other teams. With the steep angle of the Lhotse Face it is rare to have an avalanche in the same sense you hear about on ski slopes or in the Canadian rockies.
But Keith Woodhouse makes the most poignant and honest comments thus far "...Feeling pretty down!! Spoke to Dirk and he's had enough! All sorts of mixed emotions from me some selfish some wishing I'd seen the signs earlier. I should be elated I'm at C3 got here exhausted in 5 hours but I'm not! I'm going to really miss Dirk down to earth attitude and humour. Weather here is mixed with occasional snow showers. We have three tents literally hewn out from the Lhotse face. The climb up to here was much harder than I expected and frankly much more exposed and technical than I had thought. Its basically blue ice all the way. Very difficult to get an ice axe as it just splinters and because we are one of the first groups up here no obvious foot holds. Therefore much of the climb was on front points which is Very tiring. I expect it will improve over time!"
Please don't dismiss his comments as "whining". I think he is reporting as it is. And it IS tough up there. With a low snow year it must be extremely difficult climbing the steep mountain wall. "Front Pointing" is a technique where you kick only the front point (the spikes at the front of your crampons attached to your boot) into the ice. This puts tremendous pressure on your calves. The preferred technique is to use what is called the French Step where you basically align the side of your boot to the slope of the mountain and cross-step your way up the steep sections. But sometimes front-pointing is all the Hill will give you.
Keith may be down now but I bet his next reports shows a rebound once he internalizes what he has accomplished!
April 26, 2005 - Climbing the Lhotse Face
The Lhotse Face represents one of the major challenges on the South side for an Everest climber. For many people this will be their first experience with bottled oxygen since they will sleep on it at Camp 3. But they have to get there first.
Jagged Globe reports "...climbed up to Camp 3 (7,300m). They said that the climb was very steep and icy and it took them the best part of the day. As yet, the trail is still very tough, as very few climbers have ventured that far, but it should get easier as more Sherpas and climbers make their way to Camp 3 over the coming days."
The Face is the side of Lhotse Mountain, the 4th highest at 27,939'. It is a sheer face in the sense that there are few flat spots and represents a drop of over 6,000' from summit to where it meets the Western Cwm. It is also the source of the Khumbu Icefall.
You see it once you get a little above Camp 1. Even though you are only a few miles away, it looks huge. But you have no idea. Not only is it huge, it is ice-packed and steep in places. There are small hills on the Face that make you stop and wonder how a hill can be on the side of a mountain! But you go up then down then up again and then more up and up.
Sherpas fix rope all the way up the Face. I will go into more detail on this later but it is absolutely critical that the climbers stay attached to the rope at all times - even when passing another climber. It seems that most every year a death occurs while climbing the face and in most every case, the climber had failed to clip in properly.
In addition to the climbing required, there is the altitude. At this point you are approaching 7000m or 23,000'. This is the altitude of Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas so each step take you higher than you could go anywhere else on earth.
For the first time, altitude becomes a real problem for many climbers. The difficulty of the climb plus the loads you carry combined with at least three weeks of expedition life all converge on the Face. Concentration is not suggested, it is required. Your life depends on it.
April 25, 2005 - Big teams moving up!
The ropes are fixed to the 8300m by a consortium of teams lead by Himalayan Experience. The large (20+ climbers) HimEx team leaves today for their first acclimation climb with the primary goal being Camp 2.
The two largest teams on the South, AAI and AC are getting ready to move up the Icefall. AAI has already spent some time at camps 1 and 2 and now is ready to spend the next 6 nights at Camp 2 including one at C3 on the Lhotse Face. If anyone thought the climbing wasn't tough to this point, they will change their mind once they start for C3. Jose commented about leaving the luxuries of base camp life "...As you can see, tomorrow will be a preparation day and also a last chance to take a shower before leaving base camp." AC is at C2 for the first time since they arrived to base camp almost 10 days behind AAI by design.
Harold reports that Sean with Kanatek is still dealing with some illness "...the respiratory bug is taking its toll and although he feels strong, he is not sure what is wrong with him. He may have to go further down the mountain than base camp in order to shake it off." He is still at C1. This is somewhat troubling in that he cannot shake his bug. He will probably have to return to BC or lower to fully recuperate.
IMG has already put some climbers at C3. As previously reported they were the first expedition to put tents on the Lhotse Face.
The Lhotse Face represent the next phase of a South climb and I will go into more detail on it this week. Meanwhile, those teams on the North are ready to make fast progress with the fixed ropes installed. The weather looks stable for this week so we can look forward to hearing from many climbers high up the Hill on both sides!
April 24, 2005 - Climbing Ills
A dangerous situation occurred over at Cho Oyu this weekend that had a good ending. Ed Viestures reported that one of his climbing mates, Jimmy Chin "... was suffering from symptoms of cerebral edema, which at altitude can be life threatening. We made the decision to get him down as fast as possible which is the primary treatment for cerebral edema. So at that point the decision was made that I would take Jimmy down as fast as we could go down...". Thankfully everyone is back in base camp and doing fine.
Adventure Consultants reports that several climbers are not with the main team due to sickness. "... At the present time three expedition members are in the small town of Pheriche where they are recovering from various ailments, such as slow to resolve chest infections. Rob Follows, Katrina Sandling and Dan Griffith are now much improved and are expected to return to BC in the next few days."
And Harold Mah notes that their sole climber, Sean is suffering from a form of acid reflex.
All of these situations are problems. Of course the severity ranges from annoying to life threatening. The most serious problems are any kind of edema where fluid is leaked into the brain or lungs. The only cure is to get lower as fast as possible. In this recent case with Jimmy Chin it illustrates how indiscriminating edemas can be. He is an extremely experienced climber with many high-altitude expeditions under his belt. Even with all his experience, he got hit. And there is not much you can do to prevent it even if you acclimatized properly,
The acid reflux problem is becoming more well know over the past years. I had a form of this in 2003. Basically, you feel like you have severe heartburn all the time. It can get so serious that you feel like your stomach contents are visiting your throat at times! When this happens, it is very uncomfortable especially when you are struggling just to breath!
Upper respiratory infections can be serious as well. This is what took me out in 2002. In this case, the lining of the lung gets infected or inflamed causing breathing problems This is actually a common problem. When walking through base camp you hear and see many people with bad coughs. This is a serious situation and not to be mistaken with the famous "Khumbu cough" where the cold air irritates the lungs resulting is a very, very, very annoying cough. It is almost impossible to stop this cough and it makes you and your mates miserable. But once you get back to warmer air, it magically disappears!
Of course there are the other aliments such as diarrhea, sniffles, colds and blisters. But these are welcome when compared to the more serious stuff.
So, there you have it - more about coughs, diarrhea and aches than you ever wanted to know! But if you want to know more there are two sites with excellent information about these problems: High Altitude Medicine Guide and Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic
April 23, 2005 - Prayer Flags
With a snowy weekend and climbers in route to the higher camps, there are not many dispatches coming out. One bit of interesting news is from Keith Woodhouse who says "I have a plan that we might use which would give us a summit day of around the 9 or10th May." Traditionally summits from the South have clustered around May 20 so this would be extremely early. But for Exploradus, time spent in base camp was , well interesting "...I shaved this morning and then pranced around camp in my underwear while singing along to some hip hop..."
One of the ever-present images on an Everest or any climb in in Nepal for that matter are the prayer flags. These brightly colored napkin sized flags are everywhere. The cover each base camp site since they are attached to a tall wooden pole from the Puja Alter. Attached to crevasse ladders, they flap in the wind in the Icefall and Western Cwm. And sometimes they are attached to Yaks!
But this is not for decoration. No, they have a significant meaning to all the Sherpas, porters, cooks and climbers. The basic idea is that the prayer printed on the flag is shared and sent to Buda each time the winds blows it. The prayer is the Tibetan mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, loosely translates to mean, "Hail the jewel in the heart of lotus". It is often invoked as a protection mantra against evil and harm
Each string of flags repeat the same color pattern: yellow, green, red, white, blue (from left to right or from bottom to top.) The colors represent the elements: earth, water, fire, cloud, sky. The flags are considered sacred and are treated with respect - everyone is careful not to place them on the ground or use them in articles of clothing.
One of my warmest memories is waking in my tent at base camp. As I cleared the sleep from my eyes, I unzipped the tent door. A gentle breeze was warming the morning air. But is was also causing the prayer flags above my tent to move in a gentle and lazy flow. As I lay there, I thought how lucky I was to be attempting Mt. Everest but how lucky I was to be exposed to this wonderful culture. I am sure this feeling is shared by many at base camp this year.
April 22, 2005 - Camp 2
News from the North side is a little quiet these days. It seems that communication is more difficult over there and I don't know why. I have updated the list at the top of the page for all the expeditions that seem to be sending out regular dispatches plus a few more teams on both sides of interest. Some of the best however are from Jagged-Globe and the Norwegian team with such insights upon returning to ABC as "...Here the whole A-team was present, freshly shaved and smelling good. Not one un-trimmed nose hair to be spotted. I was touched... ". Seriously this team has some excellent comments. I really like the dispatches written by the climbers themselves since they capture the feelings and write in a casual style.
It looks like a snowy weekend in store for the climbers but most teams will already be at C2 by tomorrow on the South. By this time, teams that arrived a few weeks ago in Nepal are scheduled to spend some nights at Camp 2 and at least one night at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face. The Singapore team notes "...This being the start of their second and final acclimatisation climb, the mood is more serious. The aim is to move eventually to Camp 3 where the team will spend a night, sleeping with oxygen, that is, breathing from an oxygen bottle. Thus acclimatised, they will return to base camp to await a good weather window to launch their summit bid. This is expected to be in early May."
Keith comments on the upcoming schedule and his night on the Face "... C3 is high on a shelf cut out of the blue ice of the Lhotse face. Even going to the loo will require me to be roped. More of that later!" Take a look at his dispatches, they include a scorecard for weather and mountain conditions but also for his own personal condition. I find it interesting since this is his own personal self assessment. He is using a mobile communication solution called Contact 3.0 that will allow us to follow his climb all the way up the Hill. I hope he remains near the "10" level on his condition!
Tuck over at IMG revealed a secret he had been holding "...IMG has now placed the first ropes up the Lhotse face all the way to camp III. There are a few choice camp sites, uh, if you could call them that, on this steep, icy slope, and to get there first is a big, big bonus." Actually this is significant given the low snow this year and how icey the Face is. But the space where C3 is normally located is large enough for 20 - 30 tents placed side by side so it might be a problem if all the large teams try to use the same area at the same time.
So all the attention is on C3 and the Lhotse Face but the climbers are in Camp 2. This camps sits near the top of the Western Cwm at the base of the South Face of Everest. It is actually in a rock filled ravine unless it snows! Some expeditions refer to this as Advanced base camp on the South side since they normally ask a Sherpa cook to remain there throughout the entire climb. Also, tents are located there throughout the climb and not put up and taken down like at C1, C3 and the South Col. At 21,000' it about the same altitude as ABC on the North. In other words, the North side climbers have their primary base Camp 3,500' higher than the primary base camp on the South. This is one reason the North side is harder.
Having a steady camp at this location is critical for the climbers. While Sherpas and some of the elite climbers can go from the South Col to base camp in one push, every one else needs a weigh station. Plus it is required for sick or injured climbers. All that said, the views are awesome. You are looking directly up the Lhotse Face and can easily see the summit area of Lhotse, the 10 highest mountain at 26, 677'. The view in the other direction shows the Western Cwm. You cannot see the Khumbu Icefall from Camp 2. And then there is Nuptse and the associated ridge.
Believe it or not, many expeditions have lawn chairs at Camp 2 primarily for eating. But it makes for a wonderful day to sit in your chair, sipping water, chatting with friends and letting what you are doing sink in.
April 21, 2005 - The Western Cwm
As the expeditions move to Camp 2 to spend a few nights, they will experience the Western Cwm. This is the area I fell into a crevasse in 2002. Looking at pictures does not reveal the dangers and challenges this U-shaped valley presents.
First, it is about 2.5 miles from Camp 1 to Camp 2 with an altitude gain of 1,500'. So it is not far and not that high but ... it is hot, very hot. The sun reflects off the walls of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse snow covered slopes making the temperature rise above 100F degrees. Yes, it can get that hot. Then it can be brutally cold if the cloud moves in, the wind picks up and it starts snowing. Out comes the Gortex layers and goggles. Smart teams are roped in groups of three or four so that if someone does fall in a crevasse, they can be easily rescued. Finally, if this is the first time in the Cwm, it is an awe-inspiring experience that opens up all your senses.
Jagged Globe comments that "...The trail to Camp 2 is nice and mellow this year, with only one triple horizontal ladder that provides a little bit of excitement, compared to three of them last year." In my two years on Everest we had five or more ladders in this area so the glacier must have consolidated somewhat. That coupled with an apparently low snow year, I hope it decreases the risk of crevasses but you never know.
Of course the goal is Camp 2 which AAI has already attained. In fact they went to the base of the Lhotse Face today and now are preparing to return to BC for a few days. They noted how big the Face looks! Wait till they start climbing it!! "...We did make it to a point where we could see the route up to the South Col. Shocking, exciting, awe inspiring, what else... BIG."
Erin Simonson of IMG comments from her team that " Conditions higher up the mountain are less than perfect right now. The Lhotse Face hosts the route from Camp 2 to Camp 3 and on to the South Col and High Camp, and as of the most recent reports, conditions there are much more icy than normal, with less snowpack available for use in creating tent platforms, etc. Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face is always tight, even in the best of conditions, so it sounds like this year there may be a premium associated with decent ledges on which to perch sleeping tents. "
All this means more challenging climbing this year. The lack of snow really plays havoc on Everest climbs, as strange as it sounds. More on Camp 2 tomorrow and then the Lhotse Face.
An interesting approach on the South this year is by Gavin Bates who is climbing solo and without supplemental oxygen. He is not using the traditional base camp location but instead the last village before BC, Gorak Shep. I can only surmise he believes staying at the lower altitude - about 17,000' versus the 17,500 for base camp reuces the drain on his body. But there are other reasons as his team notes: "....It has caused quite a stir amongst the climbing fraternity as all now wonder why stay camped on the ice for three months when you can return to GS for home cooked food and R&R between climbs!"
For a change of pace, take a look at a North Pole expedition. Borge Ousland guides trips every Spring on the "last degree" to North Pole. There are usually a few Everest climbers on North and South Pole expeditions since climbing all 7 Summits plus conquering the North and South Pole is sometimes known as the Grand Slam!
April 20, 2005 - Quiet Days
Things are a little quiet today on Everest. Most teams are returning from Camp 1 or 2 on the South or acclimatizing at ABC on the North. Meanwhile the Sherpas on both sides continue to fix rope to the higher camps, carry tents, fuel and oxygen bottles. Adventure Consultants is still at BC taking a snow day since it snowed overnight. IMG has tagged C2 and is back at BC before going up for a few nights at higher altitudes.
Jagged Globe is back at BC after a night at Camp 2. They sent a nice description of what was happening up there, including some damaging winds and protocols for taking care of nature in a tent! "...Dinner was a gourmet boil-in-the-bag, which for me was bacon and beans, followed by a chocolate pudding in chocolate sauce. After a hard day sun bathing, it hit the spot nicely! Snuggling down in a huge sleeping bag was lush until the burning desire to pee overtook the proceedings. I left my pee bottle at base camp - it was a rather shy me that had to ask Nick for his, getting out the tent for a pee wasnt going to happen in the night time cold at over 6,000m. The night was fairly uneventful until the early hours when the wind picked up, and then the tents started to rattle and bend. Due to the position of the tents in the gully, we were sheltered, but other teams were not so lucky with their tents being blown flat."
There are a couple of great updates from the Team Ogawa on the North. First Scott notes "...We have now been in ABC ~21,000 ft for a week. I have been feeling pretty good. I was slightly surprised by the difficulty of the climbing up to the North Col but so far I have carried two loads up there."
But Michael seems to be having some challenges as the altitude takes a toll on his body: "...The morning ritual includes an extremely dry/raw throat and blowing out some choice bloody snot which feels great to get out. The bathroom facilities at ABC are unique as well. The wind often super cools your backend which is mooning the Finish camp across the way."
Climbers on both sides are starting to settle into their routines. They know how to sleep, what to eat and what altitude does to their body. Each person develops their own coping mechanisms. Some people need to socialize more, other like to be alone. But each by now it is clear what they are up against since they are seeing the mountain up close and experiencing harsh weather. Yesterday's accident with Ben probably has sent nervous ripples throughout the camps on both sides. I am sure it the primary topic of dinner conversation. How did it happen? How is Ben? How can I avoid the same fate? Many questions with few answers. Luckily, and I mean this, it was "just" a broken leg. As serious and devastating to Ben and the Algonquin team as this was, it could have been worse.
Tomorrow, I will provide some comments on the Western Cwm along with some first time pictures of the nasty crevasses and challenging conditions.
April 19, 2005 - Problems in the Icefall
In an eerie premonition, Ben and Shauanna reported about the unstable Icefall in a dispatch earlier in the day, then later the disturbing news that Ben Webster, the leader of the Algonquin team had broken his leg in two places.
Harold of Kanatek broke the news that a climber was hurt "... There was drama on the mountain today when one of the climbers from another expedition broke his leg on his way to camp Two. It took a big operation to get him off the mountain with 20 sherpas involved and he'll be flown off the mountain tomorrow. This is a cruel environment and it's tough to see someone's dreams crushed so quickly and completely." He broke his leg in the Icefall after stepping on a block of ice that moved, as reported by BasecampMD. Adventure Consultants also made a report of what happened.
How sad for the Canadian Team Leader. Obviously his climb is over. I feel for him and what he must be feeling. Probably some guilt, relief, anger and appreciation to all the Sherpas, Doctors and other who helped get him out of the Icefall. His partner Shaunna is considering what she wants to do and will decide in a few days.
The earlier incident reported by Ben and Shaunna with Algonquin was that the Icefall shifted as they were climbing through the area. No one was hurt but it shook them up quite a bit. "...I was taking her picture from the side when there was a huge release of ice somewhere below. Like thunder amid an earthquake, the ice below our feet shuddered and shook as something huge let go in the crevasse deep below. I thought we were gonners" Last year a Sherpa injured his back when ladders fell in the same general area. Their dispatch went on to discuss the condition of the Icefall and the weather, apparently warm without much snow. The more serious incident happened soon after, apparently.
Last year Shaunna Burke was climbing towards the South summit, about 1500' from the summit, when the weather turned bad forcing her to abandon her summit bid. Losing Ben is obviously a serious problem given his experience and leadership I am sure the Sherpas will be willing to continue. Time will tell if she is also willing. Anytime there is an accident involving your team, it shakes everyone up.
With the Icefall apparently in such a precarious state, all climbers must be feeling some anxiety. A South side climb requires going through the icefall at least three times and more likely five. As the season moves towards summer it gets warmer, the snow softens and the Icefall becomes more active. Even if the Icefall Doctors who manages the ladders do their best, no one can predict what the blocks of ice will do. Dangerous times up there.
Update: Shaunna to continue the climb. The latest from Algonquin
April 18, 2005 - Camp 1 and beyond
Many teams have made it to Camp 1 for a night and are now on to Camp 2 or back to base camp for a little R&R. All the excitement of arriving at base camp is over and now the climbers are strictly focused on climbing the Hill. For some, the excitement continues with every new view. But for other, the difficulty of what lies ahead is just setting in.
On the North side Brook from Ogawa comments "..The rest of the guys are making their first trip to C1 today. They are in for some surprises. Vertical jugging on hard water ice with full loads! Sustained slopes of 40-65 degrees, with solid blue glacier ice under foot... Only a few ladders this season, and they do make it interesting at times."
On the South, Dave Morton with AAI notes that ".... It's hard to really relax the first afternoon and evening at another high point- approx. 19,500 ft tonight. Slight headaches, quesy stomachs and a lack of appetite are common. The team did an excellent job of getting down some calories an hour ago." Eating is hard at high altitude. You loose your appetite all together. Sometimes even drinking water is tough. But it is good to begin the routine at Camp 1 since it only gets harder up higher.
Jim Williams of Exploradus comments on being at Camp 1: Camp 1 is located at the mouth of the Western Cmw - a long valley leading up to Camp 2. Our camp1 is at an elevation of 6064meters or19,890feet. The from our camp we can see several big mountains including Pumori, Nuptse and Lhotse but not Mt. Everest. Tomorrow we will get our first real view of the mountain we have come to climb."
The teams continue to make progress towards their goals. No real problems being reported and the weather forecast shows Camp 2 temperatures around 0F and winds 10 to 20 m.p.h. Cold and windy but in the bright sun of the Western Cwm it will feel warm. For some fun, take a look at Team Honda and their pictures of life at base camp. Hmm, I never had space heaters!
April 17, 2005 - Sherpas
You hear about them all the time, Sherpas that is, but who are these people? The New York Times just ran an article using Apa Sherpa as an example. Of course Apa is on-track for his record setting 15th summit this season. The gist of the article is that Sherpas are being under-valued by rich Western climbers who view these talented people as simple "load carriers". Thankfully it goes on to set the image straight.
Anyone who has been exposed to the Sherpa people know better. Once touched by these special humans, there is no going back. A recent blog by my friend Joseph Acero discussed his friendship with Nima Tashi whom he climbed Ama Dablam with last Fall. Nima is after his 9th Everest summit this year with Jim Williams' Exploradus expedition. After Nima spent a few weeks visiting Joe and his family this year, Joe commented "... It was hard to say good-bye to Nima this morning. My family had grown close to him over the past month and I know he felt the same way. We will all miss his companionship and hope he is able to return this Summer. We did so many things with Nima over the past month. Showing him different local sights, meeting many new friends and family members, and just having interesting talks about our respective cultures, customs, and lives."
I clearly remember having severe difficulty on the Lhotse Face in 2003 and Anj Dorge taking my pack without hesitation or request. On my first trek in Nepal in 1997 after dislocating my shoulder (yes, I do have my problems!) one of the young Sherpas on our trek insisted on taking my pack for the next two days. When I tried to thank him, he looked at me as if I was crazy. Another great memory was on Ama Dablam in 2000 as I was near the top of a snow couloir and wanted to go around a huge bubble of snow that was blocking my way. Lhakpa, who had free climbed the couloir and fixed the rope was now watching me carefully. As I made my move to go around, he quickly told me to come straight at him knowing it was the safest route. I followed his instructions and fell aside him as I cleared the bubble. He just looked at me and grinned.
Long time Himalayan Guides and climbers such as Dave Hahn, David Breashears, Pete Athens, Jake Norton and others have come to love the Sherpa culture and their ways. Most of these Guides are now fluent in Nepalese. The understand and respect their customs. Sadly this is not always the case for some of the Western clients. The vast majority are awed by the Sherpas and leave with their spirit touched but a small minority simply view these hard workers as "load carriers". This minority rarely takes the time to speak with the Sherpas, get to know where they live, if they are married, how many children they have and more. If they did they would find they have more in common than they thought.
Our lead cook on Everest in both 2002 and 2003 was married, had 4 children and lived in a small village South of Kathmandu. When I asked Dawa when he was going home after our expedition he said not for a long time. It seems the Maoists knew that several men in his village made nice money on Everest expeditions so they were lying in wait for them to return. Their motive to rob him of his hard earned money. This was a common story I heard often. Nepal is a country in crisis, make no doubt.
There are few Westerners that can stand even with the Sherpas in the Himalayas. You read often about their strength but words fail to communicate the depth of that strength. They leave base camp at sunrise carrying 80 lb loads up 3000 feet in 3 hours - that is a round trip! Take a look at a few comments already from this year's dispatches:
Kanatek: "I have gained so much new respect for the sherpas today. They carry tons of gear up and down the mountain and they were having races down the Ice Fall. They did not even wear crampons; they just slid down the Ice Fall."
Jagged Globe: " While we have been resting, the Sherpas have been working hard doing two big carries up to Camp 2 and returning in the same day. The Sherpas are having a rest day tomorrow before they go back up to establish Camp 2 for us."
All this said. Sherpas are human. They get tooth aches, altitude sickness, colds, the flu and more. Given that their nutritional needs as a child were rarely met, they are short and underweight. Sometimes their eyesight is not as good as it could be. Thankfully there are many Westerners that raise money for the Sherpas and their families. Hillary started the ball rolling with his tireless efforts to build schools and hospital. That work continues today with many of this year's expeditions raising money to improve the living conditions in the Khumbu
There are some climbers this year on both sides attempting Everest without Sherpa support. My hat is off to them if they summit and return safely. They clearly state they will not be using cooks, the ropes the Sherpas fix or for any extra carrying capacity. But truth be known, no one climbs Everest alone. The Sherpas are always there.
April 16, 2005 - Camp 1
The weather seems to be playing games with the climbers in the Everest region this season. Over at Cho Oyu,, about 20 miles from Everest, Ed Viesturs and team have returned to base camp after high winds made for a miserable night but Mountain Madness notes a bright day after some of their team took a load to Camp 1 on the South.
On the South, the three largest commercial teams: IMG, AAI and Adventure Consultants (AC) are staggered in their schedules. Each team has at least 10 climbers plus Sherpas. Sometimes this is by design, others, it is just the way it works out. AC tries to come in later than everyone else to avoid the "rush" but with the unknowns of weather and health it does not always work out. It seems that ever year there is a crowd on the best weather day for the summit push. We will see this year.
The next step for all the teams is a night a Camp 1 at 19,500'. This requires climbing the Icefall with a reasonable heavy load, perhaps 20lbs. While this may not seem like much at these altitudes it is. They will carry their high-altitude sleeping bag, extra clothes and perhaps some food and gas for the stoves. Sherpas normally carry the heavy tents, stoves and sleeping pads. Not too much is reported about Camp 1 since it is after the Icefall and below Camp 2 and the Lhotse Face. However it is a special place.
Harold with Kanatek comments "...We gained 1,720 feet in an 8 hour climb and we are absolutely and utterly exhausted. When we arrived here we collapsed asleep in our tent until we were woken by the Sherpas with tea and cookies." He also makes some comments about climbing the Icefall to Camp 1. While there are not as many ladders this year, there is one section that has five ladders lashed together! Jagged Globe has some nice photos and comments on this as well.
Once you top the 'Fall there is a large flat expanse of snow. It looks easy but you are tired. Normally climbers take a rest and take some food and water before they continue. You cannot see the actually camp site nor tents from here but you leave anticipating a quick walk. Is always a surprise how meandering the route is since you soon discover that the area is filled with crevasses. This is the end of the Western Cwm and the initial section of the Icefall just before the glacier drops over a steep rock fall to create Khumbu Icefall. Of course all this is hidden by hundreds of feet of ice so all you see is snow, ice and deep cracks.
There are normally five to 8 ladders in this area along with a fixed rope. Climbers are told to always attach themselves to the rope and be extra careful in this area. There is a tendency to relax your guard but now is not the time. The walk has a gradual climb but you soon find yourself breathing hard and looking for the camp. Anywhere from half to a full hour later you make it. The sight of yellow, red or green tents on the pure white snow is amazing. But even more so is the Cwm unfolding in front of you. While not all of it is visible, you can see Nuptse on your right, Lhotse ahead and Everest on your left. Most climbers seem not to notice all this since they are focused on getting into their tents and having a brew and some food. Normally each tent prepares their own food at this camp so it starts to feel like a real climb at last.
On the North, progress is steady with Jagged Globe making it to Camp 1 at 7,000m. They also report high winds. I notice that a climber named David Tait is with Himalayan Experience. I wonder if this is the same UK Climber who wrote some great dispatches last year on his North side attempt but suffered from altitude problems and had to retreat. If so, it will be his fourth attempt! All I can say is Go David Go!
Make sure you read the dispatches from Exploradus. They are doing a great job of communicating what it feels like up there.
Sadly the rumors were true about deaths in the Everest area, the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism confirmed that two Korean climbers died on Pumori. As usual, there are no details but other sites mention high winds that blew the climbers off the ridge. My condolences to their families
April 15, 2005 - Climbing the Icefall
IMG reported that their first trip up the Icefall took 6 hours. Mountain Madness' entire team heads to Camp 1 today as does Kanatek. The Algonquin team noted that Ben and Shaunna "... climbed to camp I today and returned in about 6.5 hours. Apparently this is an excellent time for their first attempt this year. They said the icefall is in very good shape and was a safe and relatively easy climb compared to other years."
So what is it like to actually climb the Khumbu Icefall?
First you start before sunrise to minimize the movement of the glacier heating up with sunrise and mid-day heat. This means a 3:00AM wake-up call from the Sherpas. The first time you are probably already awake with anticipation or just because you are still not used to sleeping at 17.500'. You get dressed in all your long underwear, warmth layer and finally Gortex to protect you from the wind. You stuff some food into your pack along with an extra pair of gloves if this is just a quick trip to the top. If it is to Camp 1 for the night, add your sleeping bag and maybe some extra layers but not too much.
Eat as much as you can and top off your water bottles (not hydration packs since they freeze) and start heading towards the icefall. Depending on where your base camp is located, this can take 10 to 30 minutes to reach the last flat section before the climbing actually starts. At this point you put your harness on (checking yours and your partner's webbing to make sure it is doubled back for safety). Attach your crampons to your boots and you can't help but look up.
The first section is pretty much a continuous climb that undulates wildly. Sometimes it is a 60 degree climb, others a more gentle 20 degree. After an hour in a "normal" year you reach the first ladder. For most climbers this is a moment of truth. You can prepare, read, talk and dream about this moment but when it comes time to actually placing your cramponed boot on the first rung of a ladder crossing a crevasse that is 100' deep ... well I think you get the idea.
But you did it. And you do it again and again and again since you will make at least 4 round trips on your summit bid - maybe 6. Your breathing is heavy and labored the first couple of trips up. Maybe from the altitude or maybe from the stress but you breath heavily through your mouth and welcome any stalls up front. Even though there is a thin nylon rope that is attached to your harness with a metal carabiners, you think about falling. Most section of the Icefall are not knife-edged. They are on large expanses of relatively flat snow and ice. But there are these huge seracs that teeter above you threatening to fall at any moment. And then you hear it - a loud crash. Instinctively you lower your shoulders and raise your arms over your head. You just heard an avalanche in the Icefall or maybe one of those towering seracs falling. More than likely it was off your route since the Icefall Doctors are careful to avoid the South side of the Icefall where most of these crashes happen but you just don't know.
Climb, more climbing and then you reach a flat section known as the football field. A large area of perfectly flat hard packed snow. Take a break, drink some water, slow your breathing and eat something. Congratulations you are about a third of the way up and it has take at least two hours. You sit on your pack and enjoy the view. It should be sunrise but you are on the West side of the Icefall and the sun does not hit this are until 9:00 at the earliest. It is cold. If the wind is blowing you feel very cold. Pull up your hood, add a down parka if you have one and focus on eating and drinking. Time up, get going. More of the same for another two or three hours. Sherpas are now returning from the previous day of load carrying to the High Camps. You have already been passed like you were standing still by Sherpas making carries to Camp 1 and Camp 2 earlier in the morning. They had loads that made you feel like a wimp. You struggle with your 20lb load and they scoot pass you with their 60lbs. Your respect for these special people grow not because of their strength but because of their completeness.
It took you five or six hours but you made it to the top. The final section always involves steeper ladders and sharper grades so you suck it in and make the climb. And you are there. A completely flat expanse of snow that reveals the Western Cwm. Oh my God, I made it! Camp 1 is another half to full hour from here but you are through the Icefall. You cannot help but stop and look back. Even though you can only see a few hundred yards of the 'Fall you see every step, every ladder, every climb in your mind.
Congratulations you've just climbed the Khumbu Icefall on the South side of Mt. Everest. You on your way to the summit!
April 14, 2005 - The first Icefall climbs!
The climb is on! Most of the South teams are now making their first trip up the icefall while over on the North they are trying to get to Advanced base camp now that the high winds have abated.
Christine at Mountain Madness reports "...climbed through the Khumbu ice fall just below Camp 1 and then descended back to base camp. We had a very windy and cold climb. The ice fall is relatively straight forward this year with not too many ladder crossings."
Over at Kanatek, Harold Mah who is at base camp to support Canadian Climber Sean Egan noted "...There is a part, the size of an apartment block, which looks ready to collapse at any moment. The climbers, and there may have been as many as 30 of them, were carefully avoiding that section and going up the left hand side."
Willie Prittie with AAI comments that Danielle Fischer , attempting to be the youngest person to complete the 7 Summits, has made it base camp after some stomach problems on the trek in. Having climbed 6 of the 7, I am sure these types of problems are not a big deal for the 20 year-old.
And of course on-mountain politics have begun. I am always amused or amazed how teams judge each other or cooperate to get up the Hill. In one dispatch it was noted that a South side team climbed the icefall the day after they arrived thus questioning their judgement as to their acclimatization plan. But over on the North, there seems to be a coalition that has formed amongst three teams to fix the ropes all the way to the summit thus saving everyone time and precious energy by avoiding duplication.
Finally there are more rumors of death in the area. I really don't like this type of reporting since false rumors can bring unnecessary anxiety to those back home. In my experience commercial operators are excellent in dealing with these situations by making sure emergency contacts are quickly notified before the news is posted on websites. Also I have seen too many of these rumors turn out to be false. With the language barriers, stress of the climb and just human nature to pass on bad news, this stuff spreads like wildfire on a big climb like Everest. I hope they are wrong and will not comment until I see anything "official".
April 13, 2005 - Life at base camp
With most teams in base camp on both sides, the actual climbing has started. On the South, IMG is already at Camp 1 On the North, Russell Brice's Himalayan Experience has arrived at base camp and have sent their first dispatch. But it is early and most teams are still in base camp enjoying their Pujas, organizing their gear and getting used to the altitude.
It takes some adjustment to get used to life at Everest Base Camp. You are excited to be there after months (or years) of training, planning and dreaming. You are glad to be have a "home" after ten days of traveling from your home and spending one or two nights at a different tea house during the trek in from Lukla or the drive from Lhasa or Kathmandu. It is good to have all your "things" out of the duffles but they remind you of home and what lies ahead.
The first couple of days, you get out of breath just walking across camp. Sometime you can experience the frightening Cheyne stokes breathing problem where you simply stop breathing in your sleep. But your body will wake you up with a gasp reminding you of where you are - 17,200 at the base of Mt. Everest.
Looking around all base camp, all you see is a sea of tents - all colors, all shapes and sizes. It truly is a small city. Satellite dishes are everywhere. Yaks amble throughout the camp. Prayer flags provide a roof over each team's area. The gentle hum of generators provide a constant background noise only interrupted by the occasional avalanche off Pumori or the Khumbu Icefall. People wander through your camp as you do their's. Smiles are usually generous and new friends are made or reconnected.
But there is one constant thought on your mind - the climb. It is almost impossible to leave a tent and not look up at the icefall. It is huge but looks small. It is moving but looks still. It is the door to Mt. Everest. You know by taking the short walk to the first ladders a day after you arrived that this will test all your preparation. But this is what you trained for. This is what you are here for. And now it is your turn.
April 11, 2005 - More teams at base camp
Good news. The O'Brien Brothers posted a dispatch today reporting that they are on their way to the South side base camp. I am going to love their writing style ... no political correctness with these guys as they described their airport adventures "... the next morning at 4am. Cluster@%*& at the airport. Bags and people everywhere." They traveled via Delhi which I have done as well. Now I avoid India and use Bankok as my gateway to Nepal. Anyway, it appears Summit Climb has regrouped with Dan taking 35(!) people up the Khumbu with a variety of goals: trekking, Lhotse and Everest.
Terry with Kanatek noted the noise at base camp "...Last night we were woken by a major rock fall which sounded like a freight train right outside our tent. At night time the sound reverberates for ages and Ive no idea where the rock fall was, but I know were in no danger here." Everest Base Camp is surrounded by mountains, glaciers and steep cliffs. It is rare not to having something moving or falling especially at night as the changing temperatures cause the ice to refreeze and thus move.
In spite of the bad weather days, Adventure Consultants report that their top team of climbing Sherpas led by Anj Dorge (right) have already established Camp 2 (21,000') in the Western Cwm ..."climbing Sherpas have already made several carries to Camp 1 and Camp 2. The brisk cold breeze we experienced today was a ripping 100 kph at BC which had our staff fighting to keep our tents pinned down." Anj Dorge seems to always be a leader on Everest with establishing High Camps and fixing rope. This year is no different. They should be in base camp on Thursday.
Over on the North, Jagged Globe's David Hamilton reported that expeditions are slow to arrive "There are still only about 10 climbing teams in base camp at the moment, with a predicted additional dozen expected to arrive in the next day or so. These teams have been held back by the recent Maoist blockades in Nepal, which have made travel outside of Kathmandu very difficult." There are supposed to be about 30 teams on the North and 20 on the South this year.
As widely reported, there was violence this weekend involving climbers traveling to the North side. Maoists attacked a car carrying two climbers. They are back in Kathmandu recovering from injuries. The only good news is that it is now reported that the climbers believe they were mistaken for locals and not a victim of an attack on tourists.
This will be a full week for the South side teams. Their first trips up the icefall, now that the route is in. The Puja for many teams. The first nights at 17,500'. And adjusting for base camp life. More on that tomorrow.
April 10, 2005 - Bad weather moves in
The forecasted bad weather has moved in closing down most expeditions for the day. Ed Viesturs reports on a side effect high altitude while stuck in their tent over at Chop Oyu advanced base camp "We've got books, we've got music, turns out we've got a nice stash of books. Veikka and I typically bring books year after year, the same books that we've had from previous expeditions. I guess one of the beauties of high altitude mountaineering is you can't remember what you read last year or the year before so we can go along with the same books we've been schlepping around for the previous expeditions, basically cheap trashy novels."
Over at Island Peak, IMG's Eric Simonson says "Just plain old nasty weather--snow and high winds and cold all day long, I sure hope this weather system moves through quickly. Even with perfect conditions there's no guarantee a summit."
So it sounds like a good day to rest up, rehydrate and eat as much as you can. They will need it in the weeks ahead.
April 9, 2005 - Arriving at base camp South
A busy day in the base camps! While not every expedition is there, many have made to this important milestone. For the trekkers, this is their end of the road. I know they feel great satisfaction and a certain sadness when they leave the climbers. The climbers also have some mixed emotions in that while they enjoyed the trekkers, it is now time to get focused on climbing Mt. Everest!
Terry from Kanatek notes "There must be over 200 people here. The landscape of the camp is totally inhospitable with rock, ice and snow and looks like a moonscape. Sherpas arrived here early to level out places to put our tents ... Its good to finally unpack knowing that we wont have to pack up again for a bit."
Eric Simonson from IMG reports the first guided team into the icefall. The Sherpas have fixed some of the route and normally climbers will go about 500' up the icefall a day or two after arriving just to get a feel for it.
The Khumbu Icefall is one of the most physical and visual stimulating sections of the South side climb. It drops 2,000' from the Western Cwm but you can only see about half from base camp. A small team of Sherpas paid for by all the expeditions "fix" the route by putting ladders across deep crevasses and climbing roped anchored by ice crews and pickets. They work the route daily since the glacier is in constant motion.
April 8, 2005 - First Pujas
Many teams are arriving in base camp on the South side. Thus far Mountain Madness, Peak Freak and IMG are there. The Alogoniquin team should arrive today. It will be a busy weekend in base camp.
Before anyone starts climbing the icefall a Lama comes to base camp and conducts a Puja (click for video). I am sure all the expeditions will report on their experiences because it is one the the most memorable and impactful events of climbing in the Himalayas. Some expeditions have already had several Pujas but the one at base camp has the most impact. This is one of the only times where all the Sherpas, cooks, guides, climbers and trekkers are all together.
I am looking forward to the Puja dispatch from Terry with the Kanatek team since he is doing a wonderful job of expressing all the emotions a first time Everest visitor feels on his way to base camp. A nice Puja report is from IMG: "This solemn ceremony is a memorable event and a pre-noon cocktail party, all rolled into one. It is a must-do part of any Everest expedition, and because we think it so special, we encourage our entire climbing and trekking team to witness it and participate in it, and we schedule our itineraries so everyone can. "
Other expeditions are having a lot of fun on their way to base camp. Proving that mountaineering is independent of language, Team Honda's diary page has some nice photos but I can't understand a word of Japanese so I have no idea what they are saying but there are a lot of smiles. Trixi from Exploradus reports on the affect of high altitude when racing Yaks! "Today we left Pangboche and hiked to Chukung. I believe that it was the first day that we all could really start to feel the altitude. I for one had a couple of learning experiences when I tried to run uphill to get in front of some Yaks and forgot that we were in an area that was over 14,000 feet--that'll make you dizzy alright--the Yaks won that race."
All fun aside, several teams have helped sick trekkers as they heard towards base camp. The latest involved Adventure Consultants as they report on their site: "... the staff became involved in two rescue operations not involving our group. Doctor Rachel Harrison cared for the injuries while other staff members organized a helicopter evacuation. The ability of Adventure Consultants to supply oxygen aided in the safe transport of the injured."
Over on the North, Jagged Globe's team have arrived at base camp and are starting to plan how to fix the ropes this year.
Finally on another note, Ed Viestur is nearing Cho Oyu base camp as he uses this 8,000m mountain as a warm-up for his attempt on Annapurna. If he succeeds on Annapurna, he will become the only American to summit all 8,000m mountains. And he has climbed them all without supplemental oxygen.
April 7, 2005 - Kala Patar
One of milestones on the way to base camp on the South side is Kala Patar. This is an 18,192' (5545m) mountain that is often the goal for Khumbu trekkers. But it is also a intermediate stop for Everest climbers. The view for the top is awesome, almost overwhelming. Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse all are right there in full view. You can also see Ama Dablam poking it's summit up down valley. And of course you can see the Khumbu Icefall! If you look closely Everest Base Camp is barely visible.
Kala Patar is an "easy" walk up in that there are no ridges, crevasses or objective dangers. If it has snowed it can be icy and slippery but thre is a well worn trail to the top. Near the top some rock scrambling is required to reach the true summit. If it sounds easy, it is and it is not! It should be easy for those attempting Everest but for folks with Kala Patar being their final goal, it is their summit day. After all it is 18,000 feet!
However for everyone the work is rewarded with wonderful views on a clear day.
Still no word on the O'Brien Brother's website about their progress but the schedule on the Summit Climb site shows them arriving at base camp on April 13.
April 6, 2005 - A tribute to Fallen Sherpas
There are lot's of dispatches coming from the South side teams as they make their way from Lukla to base camp. International Mountain Guides is one of the top companies and regularly takes clients to the highest mountains on the planet. They run a first class operation. In a recent dispatch Erin Simonson of IMG had some good comments as they gain more and more altitude on their way to the village of Lobuche: "The altitude is taking its inevitable toll. A few folks have developed the "Khumbu Cough," a fairly normal annoyance. The ascent to Lobuche is a "character builder" ..."
She went on to note the recent deaths on Pumori and the memorial to Sherpas who have died on Everest: "...the route includes a section of trail with stone tributes to many climbers who have gone to Everest but did not return home. For those on the team contemplating a summit bid, it is an emotionally charged experience to take a sobering walk through these memorials. News of the death of two climbers on nearby Pumori has also dampened the mood in camp, and all send their condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of those lost climbers. "
I have always found the series of rock memorials to be very poignant. They sit atop a ridge in a fairly barren section of terrain. The path goes just below the alters. Most climbers and trekkers put down their packs and wander around them for a little while. You can sense a quiet that comes over everyone as they consider how many of these hard working people have died on Mt. Everest. When you see them in action it makes the loss even deeper. They never complain. They are always laughing and smiling. Never hesitant to lend a hand.
Yes, other parts of the earth have mountains but only Nepal have the Sherpa people.
April 5, 2005 - Yaks and Zo's
One of the treats for the trekkers and climbers new to Nepal is the sight of Yaks and Zos. These beasts of burden carry the vast majority of the heavy gear from the airstrips at Lukla, Namche or the end of the road on the North side. There are actually two different animals used on these expeditions.
At the lower altitudes, say under 14,000' or below Namchie Bazzar, the offspring of a yak and a cow which is called a dzopkyos, is used exclusively. A "Zo" is not as strong as a yak but can still carry about 90lbs. You can see from the picture on the right that they look like a big cow. Yaks are much bigger (can weigh 1500 poulds) with thick fur and broad shoulders. One is pictured on the left.
For either animal, you treat them with great respect and always get on the high side of the trail when they pass. As you can see, they take up most of the available real estate on the narrow trials! Trekkers have been known to be pushed into a deep valley by these huge guys.
Their Sherpa owners treat them with great care. I believe they cost almost $400 each and live about 25 years so if properly cared for they are a wonderful investment in a country with a per capita income of only $600 a year! It is common to see their owners brushing their thick fur, making sure they have sufficient food and water. But mostly they are very careful about the weight of their loads. If there is more gear than yaks or zos, the owners will insist on adding more animals instead of loading them down.
In some ways these animals are treated better than the human porters which cost less and carry more!
April 4, 2005 - Travel to Chima
There are very few dispatches coming out right now but this is normal since the teams are focused on just getting to the base camps. Also, recharging sat phone and laptop batteries can be difficult while "on the road." All this is solved one they establish camp with the solar panels, generators and other luxuries!
As the South side climbers and trekkers head towards Mt. Everest, one mountain keeps them company almost the entire way: Ama Dablam. It stands proudly at 22,494' to the west of the main trail near the village of Pangboche. I would be surprised if anyone who has been in the area does not have a picture of this mountain. It is unique with it's pyramid structure and huge mushroom ridge that stands out like a bump on your nose. Ama Dablam was called "unclimbable" by Sir Edmund Hillary when he first saw it in the 1950's but was climbed in 1961 by a Barry Bishop team and hundreds more since then. Ama Dablam means "Mother's Jewel Box" and is a special treat for climbers and trekkers.
Meanwhile the teams getting to the North side are having more problems. The Maoist have declared a nationwide strike that has shut down activity everywhere except for Kathmandu, as reported by the BBC. The majority of teams fly into Kathmandu then take large trucks over very small roads crossing the Nepal/China (Tibet) boarder at Zhangmu. The "Friendship Bridge" spans the Bhotekoshi (the Sun Koshi) River and is an impressive piece of engineering. While giving the impression that China is very modern, nothing could be further from the truth in this area. Once past the bridge the town is nothing but run-down shanties, dirt wall structures with tin roofs and of course, dirt roads that are incredibly muddy when it rains.
One of the more interesting times is getting your documents checked by the boarder police. They take their time checking each passport, each document and every climbing permit over and over. It is never clear who is on charge since many uniformed and armed soldiers meander around. Sometimes bags are checked but not often. Once pass this checkpoint, you feel either liberated or trapped!
April 3, 2005 - A Special Lama
Alpine Ascents' Willie Pritti provided a great overview of what it is like along the trek to base camp. They visited a monastery where they had their own private audience with the high Lama, Rinpoche Nawang Tempel Gylzen. Willie describes this visit and gives some excellent background on it's significance. But I really liked his summary of "Whether you believe this or not is irrelevant when you meet one of these men. They tend to exude warmth, peace, wisdom, and humanity and you know instantly that they are someone special." I had a chance to meet the Rinpoche in 1997 on my first visit to Nepal and agree that you leave his presence feeling blessed.
In 2003, we had a small puja with a different Lama, Lama Geshe at his home in Pangboche. We were welcomed into his home by his wife and daughter. In an upstairs single large room serving as their family room, bedroom and dining room we enjoyed tea and cookies. We chatted about the upcoming climb and he showed us pictures of other climbers he knew. Behind him were autographed pictures of climbers he had blessed. The short ceremony involving candles, wax, holy water and rice. One of his favorites things to do is to bless a small card with a prayer on it, sprinkle in some rice and ask climbers to open it on the summit. Here is a short video of the audience with the 71 year-old Lama Geshe.
April 2, 2005 - Death on Pumori
The Ogawa Team of Seattle Boealps is climbing from the North this year. I am starting to be intrigued by this team since their dispatches have that excitement and wonderment that helps communicate what a great life-experience attempting Mt. Everest is all about. They are making their way through China (Tibet) to the North base camp and currently are passing through the small, poor villages of Nyalam and Tingri. I went this same route for Cho Oyu in 1998. Michael Frank writes "The culture here is incredible. I feel like I can't really do it justice to try and describe it. The Tibetans are very comfortable with sitting next to you (right next to you, shoulder to shoulder) and picking at your clothes and looking at any jewelry by picking it up off of you." You cannot help but wonder what the Chinese accomplished by taking over this poor country, rich in history and tradition."
The Peak Freak South expedition reports "... ladders have not been installed yet in the Khumbu Icefalls so nobody will be climbing before the 9th of April." They also report that base camp is still quiet since not many teams have arrived quite yet. This next week, they will be making their way through the Khumbu valley seeing Ama Dablam, Kantega (left), Island Peak and more. While they are trekking from Lukla at 9,200' to base camp at 17,500', their thoughts will become more focused on the climb ahead of them. On the South side climbs, commercial operators usually include some trekkers to go as far as base camp. It is always a lot of fun to see their excitement along the way and enjoy their company but the Everest climbers have a certain quietness about them since the trek in is just the start of their adventure.
Even though base camp is quiet, there is some bad news coming from the area. Two climbers are reported to have fallen to their deaths on Pumori which sits adjacent to Everest Base Camp. Details are starting to be reported on the commercial websites of the tragedy for Dan Mazur's Summit Climb expedition but nothing on his site as of today. The normal route on Pumori is on the South side which is the left skyline on the picture to the right. Pumori is notorious for avalanches with 30 to 45 degree snow slopes but this appears to be a tragic accident taking a western climber and a Sherpa. Whenever a climber dies in Nepal or Tibet there is a lot of paperwork required by the authorities. I am sure the Summit Climb team is devastated by this accident and not interested in filling out forms. But this is part of the agreement that comes with a permit.
The O'Brien brothers are climbing with Summit Climb so they are probably concerned as well as upset by this tragedy. Normally commercial teams use the same Sherpas for their climbs so there may be concern throughout the team. They will have to regroup before their Everest bid.
My heart sinks when I hear of any death on a mountain. I immediately think of the families left behind while the climbers are doing what they love. This is a dangerous sport and the risks are real in spite of all the commercialization and advertising that goes into attracting clients. Let's hope this is the last tragedy for this season.
April 1, 2005 - How high is Mt. Everest?
So just what is the official height of Mt. Everest? This year there is a Chinese expedition with the sole aim of measuring the Hill. In 1975 they measured it at a precise 8,841.13m (29006.23') height. But they believe with global warming Everest may have grown 10 millimeters or .4 inch each year from the original height in 1975. That would make it now 29018.04 feet. The standard height used by most climbers today is 29,035 - a measurement taken by a National Geographic team in 1999. However the Nepal Ministry of Tourism does not recognize this measurement and still uses 29,028. So it looks like we will have at least three measurements after this season!
As Governments argue about the official height, climbers continue to move steadily towards base camp. The medical team has arrived and is setting up the clinic. Other teams are having a great time in the Khumbu valley. This was always a special time for me, especially after my first trip. On my first visit, a trek through the Khumbu, I was awed by the huge mountains, deep valleys and turquoise river water. But of course it was the Sherpa people that left the longest lasting mark on me. Staying in the tea houses and seeing the Sherpa people walking their "roads" as they went through their daily lives opened my eyes to how a simple life can be so rewarding.
There are several highlights along the trek - the Saturday market at Namche, hearing the Monks chanting their prayers at the Thangboche Monastery and all the unique smaller villages along the way. One memorable stop is just outside of Namche, where most climbers stop for a two day acclimation break. Advertised as the "World's Highest Bakery", the little shop is in Khumchung. Munching on apple strudel and enjoying the views of Ama Dablam is a special memory that most expeditions enjoy.
March 31, 2005 - Airports in Kathmandu
Many teams are now flying to Lukla for the start for their first leg. The flight from Kathmandu to Luka is always interesting and exciting. You leave from the "domestic" terminal at the Kathmandu airport. But since you are flying on very small airplanes such as Twin Otters (dual prop models) getting the weight correct is paramount. Everyone's duffle, all the group gear and everything else, including the passengers sometimes are weighed on huge scales. While it may seem comforting that they take such precautions, it is uncomfortable when no one actually looks at the readings!
Then you walk through the "metal detectors". The last time I was there in 2003, it was a simple wooden frame with no electronics. But there was a guard asking if you had any matches in your carry-on!
Don't underestimate the logistics required for an Everest climb. There are literally tons of gear, food, tents, sushi and more. The commercial operators have this down to a science by now but the self directed expeditions often struggle with all the rules, regulations and complexities involved. But somehow everyone gets their stuff to base camp.
March 30, 2005 - A Climber's Hotel
Well they are off! Early dispatches are starting to come in from mostly the South side expeditions since they are arriving in Kathmandu while the North side teams have longer travel times especially if they go via Lhasa.
It does not matter if this is your first trip to Nepal or your tenth, there is a huge sense of excitement landing at the airport, driving to the hotel and walking around the Thamel district. First you walk down stairs from the airplane onto the tarmac. It is normally hot and humid this time of year in Kathmandu and since most climbers are coming from colder climates, this is kind of a shock. Then you navigate the maze of customs and immigration to get your duffles. Most expeditions meet you at the airport outside luggage claim but there may be 100 people with signs, waving and calling out names so it can be confusing to say the least. The taxi ride to your hotel is the beginning of your realization that you are no longer home. Cows wander the streets sometimes sleeping peacefully on the center line - if there is one. In spite of laws preventing it, cars seem to use the horns instead of traffic lights to control flow. Speed up, slam on the brakes, honk the horn, swerve left and do it all again! Welcome to Kathmandu.
Once at the hotel, it is normally more peaceful. The hotel owners are guenly glad to see you especially this year with all the unrest in the Kingdom. On my first couple of trips to Nepal, I stayed at the Hotel Garuda in a section of Kathmandu called Thamel. This is near many shops and restaurants and can be very noisy. But this hotel is like a museum for Everest climbers. On the walls there are posters with the early legends of Himalayan climbs: Rob Hall, Ed Vestures, Gary Ball, David Brashers and more. Some of the pictures have their autographs. It is a sobering moment when you realize where you are and what you are facing in the weeks ahead. I wonder what young Danielle is thinking?
March 25, 2005
An interesting story developing is the attempt of 20 year-old Danielle Fisher to finish her 7 Summits with Everest this season. She is climbing first class with Alpine Ascents out of Seattle. If she succeeds she will be the youngest person to succeed on all seven. As I understand it, her highest mountain was Aconcagua at 22,841' - over a mile lower than Everest. She understands this "... It would be awesome to do it, it would be totally cool. But I'm not going to lose anything to get it." A full story on her attempt and background can be found here. She and the AAI team leave tommorrow from Seattle.
March 23, 2005
More bad news for the climbing season on the Nepal side. As reported by South Asia News, tourists arriving by plane in Nepal fell by 43 percent to 14,001 in February, compared to the same period last year. There are about 75,000 porters and high-altitude mountain guides that depend on the short six-month trekking and climbing season to earn a year's wage.
A climber I want to watch is Chuck Huss with the Climbing for a Cure expedition. He is the expedition doctor and this will be his fourth attempt to summit Everest. He is certainly experienced with 21 climbs above 20,000' including six Himalayan climbs and five 8,000m expeditions.
His first attempt was in 1998 when he got to within 1500 feet of the summit (about the balcony, a little higher than I got on my attempts) when he turned around due to equipment failure. In 2000 it was food poisoning and then high winds in 2003.
Standing on the summit has been his dream for over 15 years. He is 55 years old and I am pulling for him!
March 22, 2005
The Russian North Face expedition has postponed their climb until this fall due to unrest in Nepal according to their website and RIA Novosti. I find this odd since they were climbing the North side from China. While they probably went through Kathmandu, early reports continue to show it is safe from the violence occurring in the rest of the country. They did mention the Russian foreign ministry had warned Russian citizens from traveling to Nepal.
All this said, late today that the all women Indian team has switched from the South to the North side due to safety concerns in Nepal. In a serious note, "...Indian Intelligence officials told India Daily that the Maoists were planning to kidnap the Indian military personnel."
With everything going on in Nepal, this will probably be a very quiet year. Most of the expeditions seem to be government sponsored with some of the large commercial organizers sitting it out.
It will be interesting to see if all the schedule expeditions really take place even though we are close to departure time. However it is not uncommon for trips to be canceled at the last minute.
Some climber are departing their homes this weekend including Gavin Bates, Adventure Alternatives. By the way, he is sending text messages to mobile phone users in the UK for 25p each. To subscribe text 'everest' to 80010 in the UK.
March 17, 2005
Many sites now have live links for their dispatches. I have added an @ by the expedition name on the above list. As the dispatches start coming in, I'll note the sites with the best quality dispatches on this list.
The unrest in Nepal continues with Maoists and Government battles in Eastern Nepal. However Kathmandu and the Khumbu seem to be peaceful at the moment. This is not unusual in that violence has been prevalent in Nepal since 1996 but every year it subsides during the spring climbing season. Let's hope this year is the same.
March 11, 2005
The activity is really picking up now. A couple of expeditions have caught my eye. The ones that usually get all the attention on Everest are the big names doing something special or for the first time and the attention is well deserved normally. This year for example, there is a multi-national team lead by the Russians attempting a new route on the North Face - serious stuff. Also there is a team trying to do the first traverse of Everest starting from the North and ending on the South side. But it is the small focused efforts that I like to follow closely.
Chris and Mike Obrien are first time Everest climbers. They are taking the standard South route attempting to be the first brothers on the summit at the same time. They have climbed Cho Oyu, Kenya, Rainier and other big mountains. Their motivation is admirable: raising money for the Hereditary Disease Foundation, which funds scientific research seeking cures for diseases such as Huntington's, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson's. Their goal is $100,000. They have lost several family members to Huntington's Disease.
Another noteworthy is the return of Irishman Gavin Bates. He has attempted Everest twice - once from the South and then from the North. He is also raising money for a good cause: hydo-electric power plants in Nepal. His third attempt will be from the South, he will go solo and without supplemental oxygen. He writes on his site:
"Everyone would agree that to climb Everest without bottled oxygen and relying entirely on ones own resources is a harder way to try it. Some say it is plain crazy. But, as Alex Lowe once said: "The best mountaineer is the one having the most fun" so this will be a major part of the approach to the climb. It is not so much the moment of standing on the summit that matters, but the manner in which you get there."
March 2, 2005
Viestur will be attempting Annapurna this spring. If successful it will be his last 8,000m mountain - all climbed without supplemental oxygen. He discusses his motivations, the economics of professional climbing and his future plans.
March 1, 2005
The unrest in Nepal is not stopping the Spring expeditions albeit there are more expeditions on the North from Tibet than from Nepal on the South. There are over 20 on the South and North sides. Reports are already coming in that there are no problems in Kathmandu
There are a fair number attempting the summit without supplemental oxygen, a dangerous game. Finally there are many climbs raising money for various medial research causes.
By this point some Sherpa teams are already staking out sites and building rock walls for kitchen and dining tents at Everest Base Camp. The large commercial expeditions always send the regular teams well in advance to get their favorite spots. Some teams on the South side like near the base of the Khumbu Icefall to shorten the trek, other prefer far away to avoid the crowds.
Climbers and teams in their home countries are finalizing logistics and continuing to train. Most will leave their homes near the end of the month.
I will continue to update the list this month and start daily coverage in May.
February 1, 2005
The disturbing news from Nepal today is that the King has thrown out the Government and limited civil liberties and communications throughout the country. Air flights into Kathmandu have been canceled for the moment. While this event seems very severe as compared to problems in the past, it seems that things always calm down as the Everest climbing season begins. After all, it is a major source of US dollars for this poor country and provides employment for thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, trekking companies and more.
January 17, 2005
The expeditions are coming together slowly but I am sure there will be many on the Hill again this year. Thus far the most interesting climb planned is the Russian North Face, an international team with about 38 persons from Russia, Byelorussia, Georgia, Armenia, USA and Australia. An interesting trend in the same guiding company offering a North and a South side expedition. In the past most have specialized in one or the other. It will be interesting to see if this stretches their resources too far.
November 25, 2004
While many in the US enjoy a huge turkey dinner this day, the aspiring Everest climbers will enjoy their hearty meal but probably be thinking about their upcoming climb between bites, football and family time.
I hope they will enjoy their meal and take a day off from training. But tomorrow the clock continues to click as April 1, the unofficial beginning of the actual on-mountain season begins.
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